9 Essential Skills That Teen Drivers Need to Master

When you start hitting the road on your own as a teen driver, the whole experience can be pretty overwhelming. On one hand, it's great to be out on your own, but on the other, you still have a lot to learn before you're a safe driver. Teen drivers are at the highest risk to be in a crash due to their inexperience, especially during the first month of licensure. Learning these essential skills will lower your risk of getting into an accident.

9 Essential Driving Skills for Teens

These are nine of the most important skills a teenage driver can learn. The experience you'll gain from mastering these nine things will help keep you out of trouble on the roads. Learn how your vehicle functions, how to operate it in all situations, and how to drive it on the highway, and you'll be a safer driver. 

1. Know Your Vehicle

Every driver should know the vehicle they are operating from top to bottom. This includes the following:

  • How the car works — You press the gas and the car goes, but you should know the basics of how the engine, braking, and cooling systems function.

  • How to do routine maintenance — You should know how to check the tires, wipers, lights, and fluids at a minimum. More advanced skills include changing the oil, brakes, and battery.

2. How to Prepare for a Drive

If you don't properly prepare for a drive, you might not make it there safely. You don't have to perform a 25-point inspection every time you drive the car, but you should be able to recognize a tire with low pressure, if the gas tank is empty, or if a headlight is out. 

3. How to Navigate Intersections

Almost half of all crashes occur around intersections, so it's important to know how to properly navigate them. Every intersection is different, so you have to pay attention to traffic lights, road signs, other vehicles, and pedestrians. One good tip is to assume everyone might perform an illegal act in an intersection, such as running a stop sign or a pedestrian crossing without a walk signal. Just take your time, make sure you have the right-of-way, and proceed with caution. 

4. How to Park

While pulling into a spot in a parking lot may be simple, other forms, such as parallel parking, take some practice. Take some time and practice parallel parking in an empty lot or street using anything from trash cans to safety cones as markers. You'll feel much better after some practice, especially when trying to park on a high-traffic city street. You should also know how to properly park on a hill.

5. How to Drive on the Highway

Highways seem scary to many new drivers, with cars and semi-trucks whizzing by at high speeds. They can be just as safe as long as you follow the proper highway rules:

  • Only use the left lane to pass. Don't just ride in it.

  • Give yourself extra following space. Don't tailgate other cars.

  • Check all around you when changing lanes and use your turn signals. Don't blindly move around.

  • Keep up with the flow of traffic. You can cause an accident if you drive too fast or slow. 

6. How to Merge Properly

Whether you're entering a highway or approaching a closed lane, proper merging technique is important. When you're merging onto a highway via an onramp follow these steps:

  1. Speed up to match the flow of traffic.

  2. Use your turn signal and look for an opening.

  3. Check your mirrors and blindspots before merging.

  4. Safely merge into the lane while maintaining your speed.

If you are approaching a merge point due to construction or lane closure, follow these steps:

  1. Use either lane up to the merge point.

  2. Maintain speed and take turns merging like the teeth in a zipper. 

  3. Proceed through the single-lane area.

7. How to Handle Weather Conditions

It may take new drivers a while to see every type of adverse weather condition depending on where they live, but everyone needs to know the basics of how to drive in all of them. If there is heavy rain, beware of hydroplaning and avoid driving on flooded roads. If it's snowing, reduce your speed and be careful not to lose traction on snow or ice. Even driving through foggy areas can be dangerous, with highly reduced visibility. 

8. How to Follow the Law

The most important thing to do when driving is to follow every law. Don't go over the speed limit, know what every road sign means, and learn your state's laws regarding emergency vehicles.

9. How to Handle Special Situations

There are a few situations that you may rarely encounter depending on your driving routes, but don't let them surprise you.

  • Roundabouts — Learn how to yield, enter, and exit one.

  • School zones — They have a posted speed limit, which you need to strictly follow.

  • U-turns — Check for signs prohibiting U-turns before performing one. Pay extra attention since other drivers or pedestrians may not expect you to perform one.

Master These 9 Essential Driving Skills

As a new driver, it's overwhelming trying to focus on the road and learn new techniques at the same time. But once you master these nine things, driving will feel much easier and safer. Another way to learn how to be a safer driver is by signing up for a driver's ed class from DriversEd.com. Our courses will help you learn the rules of the road for your state and teach you the proper driving techniques.

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